Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love uncovered and publicized something that many people do after the end of their marriage: an epic journey. This is not about a getaway with girlfriends or the guys or a long overdue vacation. This is about pushing the boundaries and doing something very different for you – an adventure, an exploration, a quest. So what is it about divorce and travel adventures?
Clearly, not everyone is in a position to take on a Eat, Pray, Love type quest. Having minor children and shared parenting may make that next to impossible and, some financial freedom is a necessity. That being said though, it’s possible that the biggest obstacles to you doing an epic travel adventure are all in your head.
Chandi Wyant pushed through those obstacles and after her divorce traveled to Italy where she walked for 40 days to Rome along the historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena. Chandi and I talked about why she decided to take on this challenge, why Italy and why going solo will make such a trip more meaningful. Listen in to our Conversations About Divorce on the player below or keep reading …
Making The Decision
With the end of her marriage when her spouse was no longer around, Wyant realized that she had developed a functional dependency on him and that she needed to break away from that dependency. She was recovering from a severe illness and right when she needed him, her primary person was no longer around. She felt she was at her rock bottom.
She was working on re-establishing her sense of self when she got an idea to walk across Italy. She wasn’t surprised that Italy came up since she’d had a long standing love affair with the country but she was surprised by the “walk.”
Her initial reaction to the idea was that it was not practical. She didn’t have a job and she needed to get healthcare. And then she found out about the Via Francigena and things started to fall into place.
“I decided I would go do it, that I would follow my heart instead of following my head,” said Wyant. “I realized that it was more important to follow my heart even if how to finance it was not clear.”
I suspect for many, the next thought after an idea to travel is, “Who can I get to go with me?” Wyant however, recommends doing this sort of trip alone.
For Wyant, she had already experienced what she call periods of “excruciating aloneness” during the end of her marriage and she had to trust her instinct that being alone on her journey was what she needed.
She didn’t know this during the planning stage but once she was on the Via Francigena she was a pilgrim and that status made her feel protected. The people she met on her walk respected her status and she says she was treated very well. Even as a female traveling alone, she didn’t feel threatened.
She encourages people not to feel intimidated by going solo. “You get so much from taking this leap of faith.”
Where Should You Go?
The choices of where to go are endless and that could easily mean falling into the trap of being overwhelmed or not making a decision because you’re worried that it isn’t the right one. The truth is there isn’t one right choice and wherever you end up deciding to go, will be the adventure you needed.
Wyant recommends trying some visualization techniques to picture yourself.
Wyant’s interest in the Via Francigena pilgrimage route came not from her faith – she’s not Catholic – but more from her historian interest. She found that people who commented, often did make assumptions that her journey was connected to her faith and at first she wasn’t sure how to respond. She felt a bit like an impostor.
When Should You Go?
There’s no answer to when you should make a post-divorce travel exploration but Wyant believes it is important to listen to your inner voice. “If you are too raw and vulnerable to go somewhere far flung, you need to pay attention to that,” said Wyant.
Wyant also cautions that there will be the naysayers who will do their best to discourage you. Don’t let them put you off. Instead, again trust your instincts and ask yourself, “Does this feel right?”
Much of the healing from divorce is about grief, allowing yourself to grieve and knowing that you’ll have to move through this at your own pace. If you can embrace this, then the right timing for your trip will be apparent.
For How Long Should You Go?
Practical considerations may dictate the length of your trip but within those confines, Wyant says, “The longer the trip, the more you shed the voices in your head. If life boils down to the basics such as food and getting to the next stopover, you are functioning at a pace that allows you to tune in more and pull on your own instincts.”
My own advice – go for as long as you possibly can. I’ve done some long-ish trips and I’ve found that regardless of the length, I’m always ready to be back home by the end of the trip but not usually before. And I do think you have to give yourself time to adjust to a different pace so you can enjoy your adventure for what it is rather than another accomplishment to check off a list.
Do The Trip For The Trip
In our goal-oriented culture, it is tempting to think you need to set some goals for the trip. The true value of such a trip however is likely to be much more organic. “The trip will teach you what you needed to know even if you didn’t know you needed to know it,” said Wyant. So don’t overthink what’s driving you to travel.
Wyant spent time with monks and nuns along her route and she says during those times she learned to surrender. “It’s that kind of surrendering peace that I think in the West we all want but we’re often not very good at it.”
Recognizing that it’s hard to carry that sense of surrender when you return to your regular life, Wyant says she can still draw on that skill to be more relaxed.
At the beginning of her journey, Wyant visited a church and she did write down three intentions for her trip. She then put them away and didn’t look at them again until she returned to the church at the end of her pilgrimage. Her return to the church coincided with a service so she was surrounded by beautiful music and that unmistakable smell of incense, all of which made the experience spiritual and deeply profound. Contemplating her intentions she’d written some 40 days earlier, one of them was, “I will learn to surrender.”
Chandi Wyant is a world traveler, photographer, writer and historian. Her memoir, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy has just been published and is available on Amazon.